I will be ending 2020’s LGBT+ History Month series with a post about a trans man, who like most LGBT+ people in history, has been let down by our history books. Raise your hand if you have ever heard of Michael Dillon – I almost guarantee that most of you will not. I, myself, had not heard of this pioneer before writing this post, and hence, I thought it of upmost importance to herald why Dillon should be written into history.
Dillon was born in Britain in 1915 and was assigned female at birth. However, as Dillon grew up he began to feel more and more comfortable in mens clothing and expressing himself as a male. After being prescribed testosterone pills, it became easier for Dillon to pass as a male, with co-workers eventually using ‘he’ pronouns when talking to customers.
During World War II, Dillon came into contact with a plastic surgeon who performed a double mastectomy (removal of the breasts) on him. As this doctor was known for his surgery on intersex genitalia, Dillon’s request for a phalloplasty (construction of a penis) intrigued him. Whilst waiting for the surgery, Dillon legally changed his to Laurence Michael Dillon and had his graduation from Oxford University changed as a part of the all-male college, Brasenose. From 1946-1949, Dillon had an estimated 13 surgeries to transition into a male. Whilst this gender reassignment was groundbreaking as the first successful phalloplasty, Dillon found it difficult to form female relationships out of fear of exposure. Eventually in the 1950s, Dillon fled to India, to avoid press attention surrounding an inheritance issue, where he lived out the remainder of his life as a Tibetan Buddhist monk.
Now where was that in the history books at school! The first transgender man to receive a phalloplasty and hardly anyone knows about it. If this isn’t a slap-in-the-face indicator that the history taught in school is discriminatory, then I don’t know what is. Today, trans people face an everyday fight for acceptance and understanding in a culture that views gender identity and expression as binary. For gay and bisexual people, it can be easy to forget all the suffering our forbears experienced, especially when we appreciate how much better it is for a lot of us now. Well, transgender people do not always get to feel that same sense of relief. It is 2020 and we still aren’t as open to others as we should be. We should be encouraging LGBT+ history in schools and in the media, so that we can push for greater liberality for our community.
Featured Image Credit 📷: Sharon McCutcheon